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Toronto still seeing about 150 new cases of COVID-19 daily, medical officer says|BCI CANADA

© David Donnelly/CBCMayor John Tory says all licensed street food vendors, including food trucks and ice cream trucks, are allowed to operate as of Wednesday. All vendors must adhere to physical distancing requirements, he said.

Toronto is continuing to see roughly 150 new cases of COVID-19 every day, says the city's medical officer of health.

Dr. Eileen de Villa said the number of new daily infections means that the work of investigating cases and identifying contacts is "especially important" to slow the spread of the virus as the city gradually reopens.

"Case and contact management is critical to containing virus spread and keeping people in our community safe. It helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the individual level by identifying where someone may have become infected and who they, in turn, may have infected," de Villa told reporters on Wednesday.

"This data also helps to determine how COVID-19 is spreading through the community to inform our public health strategies to contain the disease."

De Villa, who spoke at the daily COVID-19 media briefing at city hall, reported that Toronto had 139 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with cumulative total of 11,652 cases.

There are 378 people hospitalized, with 83 in intensive care units. A total of 845 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto.

A total ot 8,948 people have recovered, an increase of 165 from Tuesday.

Once Toronto Public Health (TPH) receives a report of a positive test of COVID-19, officials obtain contact information of the infected person and a skilled investigator takes a history of all his or her activities and contacts in the two weeks before he or she began to show symptoms, she said.

People with positive tests are asked about symptoms, when they appeared, what activities they did, what locations they visited, and with whom they came in contact in the two week period, she added. They are also asked if they have gone into isolation and how they may have contracted the virus.

TPH follows up daily with people who have tested positive by calling them and it identifies anyone who may have been infected as a result of contact with the cases.

De Villa said if an infected person has many close contacts over a number of areas, the contact identification takes longer. In January, at the beginning of the outbreak, people were moving around more and that may happen again as the city begins reopen, she said.

On average, TPH usually manages about 45,000 cases of all communicable diseases in the city a year. But in the last three months, there have been nearly 12,000 COVID-19 cases in Toronto alone, in addition to other communicable diseases.

Initially, TPH had 50 staff working on case and contact management. Now it has more than 550. It has also joined forces with the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, the University of Toronto, other local public health departments, and other agencies to increase the workforce in this area by 200, she said.

And with the help of the city, TPH build a new case management system in eight weeks to track test results, hospitalizations and deaths better.

Outbreak has been 'unprecedented' in Toronto

"This has been a truly unprecedented outbreak for us at Toronto Public Health. Never before have we had to manage so many cases, so rapidly," de Villa said.

"Indeed, this is the largest and longest case and contact management effort in our history and I believe in Canada's history. As such, we have struggled at times to keep up with the workload because the current public health systems and processes, and the ways they connect with the broader health system were not designed for a pandemic of this scale."

© Paul Smith/CBCPeople wait in line outside a new COVID-19 pop-up testing centre in Scarborough.

From May 27 to 29, TPH was able to contact nearly 90 per cent of new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours, she said.

The Ontario government has set a benchmark for the 34 local public health units in the province to have 90 per cent of new COVID-19 cases contacted by public health staff for case and contact tracing within 24 hours of receiving a test result, the city said in a news release on Wednesday.